CHICAGO — It is not the responsibility of professional athletes in the WNBA, NBA, MLB, NHL, or NFL to fix systemic racism that has plagued this country since its origin. In an ideal world, it wouldn't take athletes sitting out games in protest, or speaking out on the issues of the world, for those issues to get anywhere close to the attention they deserve.
This is far from an ideal world, and while players can't fix these issues alone, their unprecedented actions this week have been incredibly meaningful. Historically when people have protested injustices in this country, no matter their methods, they have been met with a range of harsh criticism — even violence and death, from people in power who don't want things to change.
When Colin Kaepernick researched and participated in a peaceful method of protest, he was criticized and ultimately kicked out of the NFL because people chose to misunderstand a message that was never meant to be complicated. Every time looting takes place during the backdrop of peaceful protests, people are quick to ask how stealing will help fight the causes that the protests were born out of. Whenever those same looting critics are asked how people are allowed to protest injustice, they freeze up, and at best mention something about peace and unity.
Peace and unity are great concepts, but without systemic change in this country, we will never see the full extent of what those words even mean. It is comfortable and easy for most people to live their whole lives ignoring the racial injustice that goes on all around them every single day.
Throughout my privileged life, I'm guilty of thinking I have a grasp of right vs. wrong, without backing those thoughts and feelings up with action. Over the last several months, I've tried to learn and discuss and commit to actionable ways to fight systemic racism in this country and in my personal life. The fact that it's taken me this long to start that process is a personal failure, but all I can do is continue to learn and take any action that I can to be an actively anti-racist citizen.
I had a hard time figuring out what to write about today, as it became clear that the White Sox would be getting back to action tonight after an off-day yesterday. It's challenging for me to resume status-quo White Sox fandom and reporting right now, or sports fandom in general, especially with the unprecedented and critical role that professional sports has taken in these protests this past week.
Coded and disgusting phrases like "stick to sports" or "shut up and dribble" that members of the media and athletes are met with every single day when attempting to speak out on social issues is incredibly disheartening. The idea that sports fans can value a Black athlete when they are on the field, but put no value on that same person when they step off it is a horrifying concept, but one that is all too prominent in sports.
Many people view sports as a distraction from the "problems of the world," but we are far past the point of that being anything but a fantasy. The people who continue to ask that their sports and social issues stay separate are the same people who will never fear for their life when pulled over by a police officer, or at home asleep with their significant other, or in any other situation where the color of their skin is the sole reason for their murder.
After writing this piece, I will get in my car and drive to the park to cover the White Sox game. If I get pulled over by a police officer, I will not fear for my life. I will get home tonight, and the last thing I will worry about is the threat of being shot to death in my bed while asleep with my partner. I can walk around my neighborhood without anyone calling the police on me simply for the color of my skin.
These are the things that white people either choose to acknowledge or choose to ignore. Ignorance and complacency are violence. If that makes you feel uneasy, or uncomfortable, that's OK, just as long as you make the correct next steps in grappling with that personal discomfort and putting in the effort to become actively anti-racist, for life.
If you don't know how to accomplish that, do the same thing you'd do if you wanted to find Lucas Giolito no-hitter highlights: research it. The internet is an amazing place, filled with information. It is not the responsibility of the oppressed to show the oppressor how to be anti-racist.
While it looks like most of the professional sports leagues are starting back up this weekend, please recognize this for not just a moment in time, but hopefully the actual start of real progress — not just nice words like "peace and unity" that make you feel comfortable when you say them. We have a real chance to listen to what these athletes are saying with their protest, and hopefully see real steps forward in battling the racial injustice that is as present now as it ever has been.